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The history they didn’t want you to know

White Debt by Thomas Harding review

by Nesrine Malik
A brilliant account of the Demerara uprising, a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Britain’s relationship to slavery.

The word Demerara probably means nothing to you, other than being the name of a large-grained golden brown sugar. But Demerara is a place, or it was. Part of what is now called Guyana, Demerara was a British territory rich in sugar plantations. It was one of the most lucrative colonies, owing to the high yield of the land and high productivity of the enslaved people who worked on it, productivity extracted via exceptional brutality.
The enslaved outnumbered the white colonists significantly, so it was thought that their treatment needed to be particularly harsh, so as not to encourage rebellion. That came anyway, in 1823. Thomas Harding tells the story of one of the lesser known uprisings of the colonial era, but his book is not just a work of narrative nonfiction, it is an attempt to illustrate that Britain needs to acknowledge the country’s “white debt”, how much of its greatness it owes to the exploitation of enslaved people.

Continue op the Guardian website, January 7, 2022.

on 09.01.2022 at 9:23
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